How can we sit back and allow this to continue in Gaza? We have to push for a two-state solution, the only route to peace

16 March 2024, 15:45

How can we sit back and allow this to continue? We have to push for a two-state solution, the only route to peace
How can we sit back and allow this to continue? We have to push for a two-state solution, the only route to peace. Picture: LBC/Alamy
Layla Moran

By Layla Moran

160 days on from Hamas’ barbarous attacks on October 7th 2023, we have witnessed unimaginable suffering.

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I have never received so many emails from my constituents, as people around the world have watched the senseless violence of October 7th and the past few months and thought only one thing - how can we sit back and allow this to continue?

In Gaza over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children. 1.7 million people have been displaced, every single person is hungry, there is no sanitation and virtually no access to healthcare. They are trapped, and it must be terrifying. And tragically there remain over 100 Israeli hostages in Gaza, held captive by Hamas.

Liberal Democrats have been clear for months - we need an immediate bilateral ceasefire and we needed it yesterday.

It is clear that there is no military solution to getting Hamas out of Gaza.

An immediate ceasefire is the only way to end the killing, to make sure the hostages are returned to their loved ones unharmed, and to get that desperately needed humanitarian aid in.

But a ceasefire cannot be a pause, because pause implies play. Continuation of violence. No more.

An immediate bilateral ceasefire must be part of a longer-term, political solution that puts an end to the cycle of devastation in Israel and Palestine once and for all.

That means a two-state solution, based on 1967 borders, with two peoples living side by side in dignity and security.

To create the conditions for such a political solution to be viable, we need to look across the board at all the obstacles to peace. And it is undoubtedly the case that illegal settlements in the West Bank are one of the biggest barriers to that all-important two state solution. We believe it is high time the international community offered more than words when it comes to opposing the settlements.

The settlements are illegal under international law, undermine the viability of a two-state solution, and exacerbate tension.

And leaders of the extremist settler movement now lie right at the heart of Natanyahu’s far right government.

Israeli Ministers Ben Gvir and Smotrich repeatedly espouse violent language about Palestinians and undermine any hope of a Palestinian state. Only a few weeks ago Smotrich posted on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “The enemies try to harm and weaken us, but we will continue to build and be built up in this land”.

On a recent visit to Israel and Palestine I travelled to part of the West Bankand saw these settlements for myself. People spoke of the lawlessness in these so-called “outposts”.

I saw a school, part funded by UK money. Demolished by well funded settlers who act with impunity. It was a wasteland. Only a dog-eared poster of the Earth to remind us of the building’s origins.

The entire village of 250 people had been forced out by the violence. The former mayor was with us. A salt of the earth farmer who broke down. Our hearts bled for him.

Both the numbers of settlers and the incidences of violence have dramatically increased since the 7th October. We cannot afford for this violence to escalate further, in a region that is already a tinderbox.

The Liberal Democrats called for British trade with the illegal Israeli settlements to cease back in 2021. We’ve also called for the individual violent settlers to be sanctioned.

I was pleased to see the government sanctioning four settlers earlier this year, but there is much further to go.

The settlers have been sanctioned under the human rights sanctions regime, and anyone providing material support to those listed is therefore liable.

So as well as expanding the scope of sanctions - and Liberal Democrats have called for such sanctions to include Ministers Ben Gvir and Smotrich - we need to ensure that the sanctions rules such individuals would fall under are properly enforced. That includes  those who provide support or enable these extremist individuals. In practice, that means looking at the lawyers, the accountants, the businesses, the construction companies.

So now we need to work out who is supporting these individuals. It’s incumbent on the UK Government to do this as quickly as possible. That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for an audit of where their assets are in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats will always stand up for international law and human rights, and we will never stop pushing for that all-important two-state solution which is the only route to peace.

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